I am writing this post though I run a risk of being branded an apologist for BSNL.

As I had mentioned in my previous blog post , a decade ago, I had sworn never to go for BSNL services again. This was a result of being at the receiving end of an abusive (top) official in Chennai.

I was surprised at the number of comments discussing the various aspects of BSNL, though the post was mainly about the ease of recharging prepaid connections.

There were people who said I should write about BSNL after trying out how they responded to complaints. Many were of the view that their complaint redressal mechanism was bad.

An occassion for making a complaint came soon and provided an oppportunity to test it out.

The SIM started giving out 'Balance not enough for the call' errors. This continued even after recharging.

The first step: My first attempt was to contact them through their toll-free customer care number. To my surprise, it connected immediately and I was able to talk to an executive within minutes. The executive said she could not find anything wrong in my account and asked me to remove the SIM and insert it again. The solution did not work out. I kept getting the same 'balance not enough' message.

The second step: I logged on to their customer grievance portal . I went through the steps and submitted my complaint. It was a longish email and I copied the complaint text, lest the site crashed while submitting it. Fortunately, nothing of the sort happened. The complaint went through and I got a complaint number.

I was sceptical about receiving any response. At the most I expected an automated email about BSNL "looking into the issue". There was no email. I thought I would wait for a couple of hours before dashing off another email.

More surprises were in store. I got a call from the BSNL office asking about the error. The official identified himself, (Junior Engineer or JTO, which I don't remember) and again assured me that there was nothing wrong with the account. As I did not have the phone with me when he called, he said he would not close the complaint and call the next day.

The next day, I got a call promptly from him. By the time, the problem had got sorted out - I added a '+' before the number. But the interesting aspect here was the follow-up call. This was the last thing I had expected from BSNL. The official also apologised for the inconvenience.

In another instance a few months ago, I went to the local BSNL customer care centre with some issue with the SIM. It had 'expired'. I had not realised that I was walking in just a couple of minutes before the closing time. The clerk at the counter was clueless about the issue and directed me to meet 'the manager'. As this was my first direct contact with a BSNL official after almost a decade, I was not sure whether he would really respond properly - moreover, it was beyond closing time. He called me in, offered a chair, and solved the issue. All I had to do was a special recharge to activate the 'dead' SIM.

My friend had the story of how his WiFi modem had suddenly stopped working. He took it to the nearest BSNL customer care. He said the modem was set right and returned within minutes.

This was unthinkable a decade ago. I remembered the abusive official now. What had changed in the ten years?

Yes, it's the competition. BSNL has to keep pace with everything - the technology, the pricing and customer service. BSNL HAD to change, else it would have lost out in the telecom race. But I feel, it has more to do with just competition. The entire customer grievance process seems to have been overhauled. Calls are getting through to 'live' customer care officials within minutes and customers are getting multiple call backs. Which is great - from a PSU.

Yes, some private sector operators are ahead - we can even complain through Twitter and Facebook, which I don't think is possible in BSNL. And there are officials who sit in ivory towers and continue to abuse customers. But the good fact is that BSNL is changing - for the better.